Photo by Rena Laverty
PLYMOUTH, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-17 team bounced back Saturday night to defeat the Youngstown Phantoms, 6-1, at USA Hockey Arena. Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wisc.) scored two goals, Jack Parsons (Cortland, N.Y.) stopped 35 shots and both Max Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) and Kamil Bednarik (Elmhurst, Ill.) each added two assists to lead Team USA.
Both teams had quality chances early in the first period, including a near miss by Team USA forward Austin Burnevik (Blaine, Minn.) on a 2-on-1 that got a rise out of the home crowd. It was Youngstown who opened the scoring, though, when Andon Cerbone cleaned up a loose puck in front for his 20th goal of the season.
The U17s were assessed back-to-back penalties at 15:54 and 17:55 respectively, the former being a five-minute major. The Team USA penalty-killing unit stepped up in a big way and kept the Phantoms off the board for the rest of the first period and finished the job early in the second.
Charlie Cerrato (Fallston, Md.) put an exclamation point at the end of the long penalty kill to tie the game and swing the momentum back in his team’s favor. Brendan McMorrow (Lakeville, Minn.) stepped up and forced a turnover in the neutral zone as Youngstown tried to salvage the last few seconds of their extended power play, then sent a quick pass to Cerrato who scored on the breakaway.
Team USA continued their dominance on special teams later in the middle frame and capitalized on their first power play of the game. Logan Hensler (Woodbury, Minn.) floated a pass out in front of Max Plante (Hermantown, Minn.) who gathered the puck and carried it around the net before he found Kristian Epperson (Mequon, Wisc.) alone in front. The Michigan commit made no mistake and beat Youngstown’s goalie Colin Winn with a quick shot to give the U17s a 2-1 lead at the second intermission.
Sam Laurila (Moorhead, Minn.) and Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh, Pa.) extended Team USA’s lead to 4-1 with a pair of unassisted tallies midway through the third period. Laurila intercepted a Youngstown clearing attempt and fired a shot through traffic that found the back of the net.
Humphreys scored less than a minute later. The Pittsburgh native came straight off the bench and took the puck off a Phantoms defenseman’s stick, skated in on an odd-man rush, and snapped a shot past Winn.
The U17s continued to pour it on late in the game and made it 5-1 with under five minutes to play. Jack Parsons (Cortland, N.Y.) started the play with a big save on a Youngstown breakaway. The puck made its way up the ice to Kamil Bednarik (Elmhurst, Ill.) who beat a defenseman wide and centered the puck to Brodie Ziemer (Hutchinson, Minn.) who buried it.
Epperson added his second of the night on a late-game power play to seal the win for Team USA. Plante carried the puck off the wall and sent a pass through the seam to Bednarik. The forward gave a pass to Epperson who ripped a one-timer from a sharp angle to make it the 6-1 final.
Jack Parsons (Cortland, N.Y.) started in net for Team USA and stopped 35 shots for his 17th win on the season.
The Under-17 Team gets next weekend off before they return to USHL play and travel to Green Bay for a weekend series against the Gamblers. Both Friday (March 17) and Saturday's (March 18) games will start at 8:00 p.m. ET.